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Virginia Tech Alumna Goes to Ukraine to Provide Relief

Elizabeth Henry Groff, a 2017 Virginia Tech graduate, traveled to Lviv, Ukraine in mid-January to support children affected by the 2022 Russian invasion, according to VTx.

The trip was part of Operation Christmas Child, an initiative sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid organization. Volunteers provide presents, school supplies and hygiene items in shoeboxes for disadvantaged children in the spirit of Christianity. The organization chose Groff to give the initiative’s 200 millionth shoebox.

Groff was selected due to her personal experience with Samaritan’s Purse. After being split up from her half-sister, Groff was brought up in a Ukrainian orphanage and was adopted in Williamsburg, Virginia at 13 years old. While in the orphanage, Groff received a shoebox, which she described as something that gave her hope.

“When I was adopted at the age of thirteen, I worked really hard to make sure that I learned English fast, that I didn’t have an accent, that no one would know that I was from Ukraine,” Groff said in an interview with VTx. “This is the country where I grew up, where I was born, and the people, they raised me, but I’ve also had a lot of heartbreak there and things that I went through, so I just wanted to kind of forget that place and close the door on my past and start my new life here in the United States.”

Groff was initially hesitant to return to Ukraine. She hadn’t gone back since 2021 when she reunited with her half-sister, who was brought to the United States through the Uniting for Ukraine program. Groff, seeing Ukrainians taking care of one another during the war, was inspired to ultimately participate in the initiative and travel back to the country.

The 200 millionth shoebox went to an eight-year-old named Natalya. She was elated to be gifted a flashlight, as it would provide light for when she goes to the basement during air raids or power losses.

“This is a child, eight-year-old child, and this is what she’s thinking about,” Groff said. “So she’s not being a child. She’s not allowed to be a child right now because of what is going on in Ukraine, so that was really sad … but for that moment in that time when she was going through her shoe box, it felt like she was able to be a kid for a little while and to just really be joyful and to enjoy that shoe box and smile and just forget for one second that she is in a country that is being torn apart by war.”

According to the Save the Children Fund, more than six million Ukrainians are internally displaced, and about eight million are refugees. More than four children are killed or injured a day. To donate, visit savethechildren.org.

Source : Collegiate Times